Documents and records are not the same!
As your company grows, business activities increase. Accordingly, the amount of documents that record these activities increase too. Good document practice is essential to manage this growth.
To properly implement document control, the terms “documents” and “records” must not be confused!
Documents are often created to describe certain processes, provide instructions, plan the standardisation of workflows within a business. Some examples of documents are SOPs (standard operating procedure), forms and plans. As these are revised over time to stay relevant to business operations, you can consider documents to be living. Contents within the documents can be changed and must be updated accordingly with revision tracking.
Records, on the other hand, are created when a certain instruction or activity has been carried out. They show historical information as evidence of your processes in place. Examples include experimental data, test results, equipment maintenance logs and more.
The 7 Golden Rules to effective document control
1) Clear identification and referencing of documents
All documents and records should be titled and numbered in a systematic way that allows for easy identification. With a referencing index in place, anyone in your team would be able to easily search and retrieve any document, saving precious time.
2) Appropriate review and approvals
Before a document is officially implemented, it needs to be reviewed and approved by appropriate key personnel for adequacy and accuracy. The key personnel should be someone with good knowledge and clear understanding of the document content.
Approval details to be recorded include the dates and signatures of individuals. Do take note that the approval date must precede the document’s effective date.
3) Updated document version numbering and effective dates
Besides a document reference number, each officially implemented document would have its own version number and effective date. With each revision, the version number and effective date needs to be updated and clearly indicated. This is to ensure that everyone is on the same page, accessing the same published document.
4) Clear identification of changes made within each revision
A change record must be kept to include details of the edits made. This summary highlights the changes made, reasons for change and any other documents affected by the change. This allows for quick referencing if one is looking out for a version of the document before a particular detail was changed.
5) Prevention of unauthorised changes or loss of documents
Preventing unauthorised changes, access, damage or loss of documents is an important element of document control. Safeguards must be put in place to achieve this. This can include having designated controlled locations for storage of master copies and managing user access to these documents. Only relevant personnel may be granted access to the controlled documents, and documents being circulated among the rest of the team will be considered uncontrolled. With that, users must ensure that the copy they have on hand is the latest published version.
6) Maintenance of confidentiality
As documents often contain confidential information, you have to ensure that confidentiality is kept. This applies to both internal documents, as well as documents from external sources. Information can relate to customer, supplier, or industry documents. Through proper identification and management of user access, this issue of confidentiality can be addressed.
7) Proper storage; easy access to current documents
While only current documents are to be used by your team, obsolete documents still are to be retained for reference or other purposes. To avoid unintentional use, these documents need to be clearly identified through markings and kept separate from current documents, with their retention period stated. Again, keeping in mind the need for secure handling of documents with restricted user access to controlled documents, your documents need to be stored in a way to stay easily accessible to appropriate staff.
Is it really necessary?
Document control might seem unnecessary and redundant while working with a small team. However, such good practices when started early, would go a long way to help ensure that your business growth would not spiral out of control when expansion accelerates. Your stakeholders would also be assured that you have a proper system in place, and can count you as a reliable partner.
Of course, all this can only be put in place when you have documents at all. If you haven’t already got your set of QMS documents, there are document generators to help you get started. With general templates or ones automatically customised to your business, you can easily start keeping proper records of your activities.
It would be helpful to consider EQMS systems that can help you effectively manage this document control process, while keeping implementation costs comparatively low. Such systems allow you to smoothly route documents to the relevant team members when they are carrying out their various tasks, to ensure that proper documentation is kept. We offer the Stendard Solution™ platform where you can even have e-signature functions to facilitate your international operations as your team is staffed worldwide.
Fortunately for everyone, Stendard have created multiple services and software to suit the different stage of requirements from all of you. You can read more by clicking the buttons to see which ones would help you the most!
Method A: Document Management & Workflow Management
Ease of file storage
Automated document-version control
Strict security protocol in place
More than 10 recommended industries’ best practices
Automatic routing system for workflow reviewing and approvals
Easy communication with in-house consultants